Monday, 18 November 2013

Callings for a Poverty Line

PM: We don't need poverty line to help the poor
http://www.stasiareport.com/breaking-news/singapore/story/pm-we-dont-need-poverty-line-help-the-poor-20131117
Singapore is past the point where a poverty line is useful, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong indicated yesterday, as its groups of needy now take shifting and multi-faceted form

Hence, the Government's "kueh lapis" approach to social assistance, he said, summoning a metaphor that Minister of Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing used to describe the multi-layered help it provides to those in need.

Speaking to reporters after a Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka, Mr Lee weighed in for the first time on recent calls to establish a poverty line in Singapore, after Hong Kong did so in September.

He said that a poverty line like the World Bank's measure of $1.50 a day was irrelevant in Singapore as there are no "dead poor" here, by which he means those who are starving and unsheltered.

related: Singapore's needy have diverse needs that call for multi-layered help

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Lee: ‘Poverty line’ is obsolete

“To say as an ideological matter that ‘I must have a proper definition, and I want to reduce this group to zero’ – I think we have moved beyond that point and I don’t think that a definition will help us to improve our schemes,” he said.

Lee also dismissed suggestions that a poverty line would help “focus minds” on the issue of the poor in Singapore.

“What is important to us is not about whether we can find a definition with which we can focus minds on the problem, because our minds are focused on the problem,” he said.

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Poverty line not useful for Singapore, says PM Lee: reports
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (L) poses for a photo with Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa during a banquet dinner for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo November 16, 2013. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte (SRI LANKA - Tags: POLITICS)
Reuters/REUTERS - Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (L) poses for a photo with Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa during a banquet dinner for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo November 16, 2013. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte (SRI LANKA - Tags: POLITICS)

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reportedly indicated on Saturday that Singapore is past the point of where a poverty line would be useful, adding that the groups of needy now take shifting and multi-faceted forms.

Lee, who was speaking to reporters after a Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka, seemed to agree with the government’s “kueh lapis” or multi-layered approach to social assistance, reported The Straits Times’ report

The prime minister’s comments come after the Lien Centre for Social Innovation and SMU School of Social Sciences issued a report on Monday which called for an official definition of poverty and one that didn’t base it solely on monetary terms.


The Case For A Singapore Poverty Line

Minister Chan Chun Sing prefers to use a "kueh lapis" approach to deal with poverty in Singapore

Why a Poverty Line is Useful - A poverty line is useful and can be partnered along with our so-called “kueh lapis” solution. In economics term, both the poverty line and the “kueh lapis” are “complements” rather than “substitutes” for one another. We can, and should have both of them, rather than be debating about which one is better.

Having no poverty line set in place is akin to having examinations with no “passing marks”. Without these guidelines, educators are left to their own judgments or discretion on whether their students have truly met the minimum standards required. Some may think their students are doing okay when they are not actually performing well.

What a Poverty Line is Not - A call for a poverty line should never be mistaken to be a call for a welfare state. Those who claim so are simply trying to leverage on Singaporeans’ biasness towards a “welfare state” and conveniently utilising it as an argument against a “poverty line”, irresponsibly.

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Different layers of aid for S'poreans, based on needs: Shanmugam
Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam has said different layers of assistance are available for Singaporeans, depending on their needs.

He said this at a "Ready for School" event to provide students with bursary and reading workshops on Sunday morning

Some 400 kindergarten students from needy families in Nee Soon GRC attended the "WeCare@Nee Soon - Ready for School" event.

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Focus on helping those with varying needs: PM Lee

Given the different circumstances of those who may need social assistance, what is crucial is not how poverty is defined, but having in place various schemes to help those in need and for able people to assess cases for those who may fall through the cracks

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made these points yesterday (Nov 16), as he spoke to reporters from Singapore on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Mr Lee also revealed that the Parliament prologue, a mid-electoral point at which Parliament breaks to take stock and conduct a review, will take place most likely in April after the budget. Parliament will re-open in May.

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Debunking the welfare myth

IT WOULD have jolted its citizens to hear from a minister this week that possibly no nation is more "welfarist" than Singapore, familiar as they are with official discourse over the years refuting the Western welfare model. The rhetorical assertion by Foreign and Law Minister K. Shanmugam at a civil society forum was to underscore the extent to which "every aspect of a citizen's life" is currently subsidised by the Government.

From the poorest, help has progressively been extended to the elderly, the young, low-income job holders and even middle-income earners. Singapore's social assistance model now covers housing, health care, early childhood care, education and training, among others. 

Yet, for all the government handouts and subsidies given, two ironies persist. The first is a lingering perception that policy positions on social welfare programmes are still "either hands-off or parsimonious", as labelled by a US-based academic. Second, despite the wealth of social schemes (which called for the distribution of an 18-layer bar chart in Parliament this week by Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing), some are not fully utilised. For example, only half of the 200,000 vouchers to help needy families with the 2011 transport fare increase were taken up.

related: PM: We don't need poverty line to help the poor

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387,187 IN POVERTY?

I refer to the article “Median household income rose to $7,870 last year, inequality down” (Straits Times, Feb 18).

Real median household income rose 1.6% - It states that “Median household income rose to $7,870 last year, 4 per cent up from 2012, according to a Department of Statistics releaseon Tuesday. After accounting for inflation, the rise was 1.6 per cent from 2012.” According to the Key Household Income Trends 2013 report released today – the Median Household Income from Work Per Household Member only increased in real terms by 1.9% per annum, from 2008 to 2013, lower than the 3.2% per annum from 2003 to 2008.

Income per household member of the 3 lowest deciles? - Average Monthly Household Income from Work Per Household Member Among Resident Employed Households by Deciles – 1st to 10th, 11th to 20th and 21st to 3oth deciles were only $463, $896 and $1,268, respectively last year.


Measuring poverty in Singapore

Singapore does not have an official poverty line. should there be one? and what are the frameworks that have been used or could be adopted for the measurement of poverty in this country? the lien centre for social innovation and smu school of social sciences report on their investigation into the complex issue of domestic poverty.

Over the past ten years, Singapore has registered robust economic growth and consistently ranked amongst countries with the highest GDP per capita in the world. Over the same period, inequality has risen sharply. Singapore does not have an official poverty line. However, the living conditions and incomes of the poorest amongst the Singapore resident population, while not reaching the level of destitution experienced in developing countries, nonetheless suggest that Singapore needs to reassess the way in which poverty is acknowledged, defined and addressed.

This concern was reiterated in a dialogue session on poverty in Singapore held in August 2013. Over 20 representatives from non-profit organisations working with poor communities were present, and most concurred that more clearly defining and measuring poverty would be an important step towards more effectively addressing the needs of the poor.

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Growing calls for PAP to stop hiding its Poor from the World


“The living conditions and incomes of the poorest amongst the singapore resident population nonetheless suggest that Singapore needs to reassess the Way in Which poverty is acknoWledged, defined and addressed.” Lien Foundation SMU

The growing presence of poor people in the wealthy city state is becoming more and more obvious despite begging carries heavy fines or even imprisonment. There are calls for Singapore to acknowledge rapidly rising income inequality by setting an official poverty line. Hong Kong’s recent decision to set a poverty line as a way to better identify and assist its poor has prompted a similar debate in Singapore’s parliament. 

A report released on November 11 says Singaporeans are not aware of the scale and depth of poverty. Meanwhile, a new public awareness campaign challenges citizens to try living on $5 for a day in a nation with one of the highest costs of living in the world.

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In Singapore, Calls for Poverty Line Amid Rising Inequality

A worker cuts tiles as he puts finishing touches on the common area of a newly completed condominium project in Singapore on Oct. 24. A group of researchers is calling for a poverty line to be implemented in the city-state to better account for a widening wealth gap

As Singapore’s decades-long rise in prosperity increasingly shows a widening wealth gap, this affluent city-state must do more to face up to the plight of its poor, a group of leading poverty researchers say.

Already, the government is stepping up social spending to help low-income citizens squeezed by stagnant wages and rising costs. But policy makers should go further, the researchers say, and better define what it means to be poor in one of Asia’s leading financial centers.

“Singapore does not have an official poverty line … Most Singaporeans are not aware of the scale and depth of poverty in Singapore,” the Singapore Management University’s Lien Center for Social Innovation said in a report published Monday. “It is time for Singapore to join comparably developed nations in officially defining and measuring poverty.”

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Singapore poverty in the spotlight

Poverty in Singapore affects an unknown number of families [Xu Yuan Duan/Growing Up with Less]

Begging is illegal here, under the island-nation's Destitute Persons Act, carrying a fine of up to $3,000 or imprisonment for up to two years for repeat offenders

But Singapore's poor still can be found, often selling packets of tissues outside food centres. Or spending the night on benches near their jobs to save the transport fare home - they are commonly called "sleepers". Or collecting empty soft drink cans out of trash bins.

The poor have no place in Singapore's vaunted success story, but there are growing calls for one of the wealthiest countries in the world to acknowledge rapidly rising income inequality by setting an official poverty line. Hong Kong's recent decision to set a poverty line as a way to better identify and assist its poor has prompted a similar debate in Singapore's parliament.

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Poverty (Line) Shy

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore has moved beyond the point of "extreme poverty", defined by the United Nations as living with less than US$1.50 per day.

First, this is a red herring. No one is calling for the official poverty line to be set at US$1.50 per day. The call is for the Government to set an official poverty line.

Second, is there really no citizen living with less than US$1.50 per day?

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20% of families on ComCare assistance saw incomes rise beyond eligibility criteria


A report by SMU’s Lien Centre for Social Innovation has called upon the Singapore government to officially define poverty. It was released at an SMU forum today (11 Nov).

The report, “Measuring Poverty in Singapore: Frameworks for Consideration”, said that most Singaporeans are not aware of the country’s scale of poverty due to lack of information. Hence, being able to measure poverty could lead to greater public support to address the needs of the vulnerable communities.

Officially defining and measuring poverty will help to identify at-risk households and to measure the performance of efforts to lift people out of poverty, it said.

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Increasing Calls for Poverty Line Amid Rising Inequality - Chun Han Wong

WSJ Blog, 11 Nov 2013

As Singapore’s decades-long rise in prosperity increasingly shows a widening wealth gap, this affluent city-state must do more to face up to the plight of its poor, a group of leading poverty researchers say.

Already, the government is stepping up social spending to help low-income citizens squeezed by stagnant wages and rising costs. But policy makers should go further, the researchers say, and better define what it means to be poor in one of Asia’s leading financial centers.

“Singapore does not have an official poverty line … Most Singaporeans are not aware of the scale and depth of poverty in Singapore,” the Singapore Management University’s Lien Center for Social Innovation said in a report published Monday. “It is time for Singapore to join comparably developed nations in officially defining and measuring poverty.” Full story

Related: Why setting a poverty line may not be helpful: Chan Chun Sing - Singapolitics.sg

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Help schemes flexible enough for those who don’t meet criteria: Minister Chan
The inaugural Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census 2013, released on 6 Nov [Link] reveals that the global billionaire population reached a record 2,170 individuals in 2013 with their total combined wealth at US$6.5 trillion. The average wealth of billionaires is US$3 billion.

In terms of their possessions, the average billionaire owns four homes, with each worth nearly US$20 million. The most common luxury holding among the ultra-rich is yachts, followed by private jets and art.

The US tops the list with 515 billionaires having an eye popping net worth of US$2,064 billion. As much as 66% of the world’s billionaires are in the following top ten countries

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More On Affordability



It boils down to this: will you buy a used car from this guy? Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew pledged before the House that the discounts given will more than offset any fare increase in the next fare review exercise. Maintaining the same poker face, he segued on to the part about fares not being less affordable for the average commuter, and more affordable for the low income and disadvantaged groups.

Everbody else pays more. The perverted Pareto principle states that 80% of the effects (increases) come from 20% of the causes (rebates). Not in this Singapore version of Tricky Dick's vocabulary is the option of reducing fares by maximising cost efficiencies and higher productivity.

Big deal, transport firms will give part of extra revenue creamed from rise of fares to enhance travel vouchers to the poor. Lest we forget, only half of 200,000 vouchers were taken up in 2011. What was not collected, was siphoned back into the stash fund of the greedy buggers.


Hope for resettled homeless through Project 4650